Syracuse Men’s Basketball Ranked #16 in Preseason AP Poll

Pictured is “Boeheimburg” at the Carrier Dome, where 16th ranked Syracuse men’s basketball will open their 2018-19 season on November 6. (c) 2018 PJ Clark

Click the play button above to hear Brandon Ross of SB Nation’s blog, Nunes Magician, and Matt Wieselthier of Citrus TV discuss Syracuse men’s basketball being ranked 16th in the first AP Top 25 poll of the season.

Audio transcript: PJ Clark Syracuse Basketball Script 10.22.18

By PJ Clark SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) —  Coming off an unexpected NCAA Tournament run last March, Syracuse men’s basketball is ranked for the first time since 2016.

In the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Orange came in at 16th, a fitting number for a team that returns all five starters from a Sweet 16 loss to Duke to end last season.  Corey Spector, a men’s basketball analyst for Citrus TV, believes the Orange are where they belong in the poll.

“I think it’s just about right,” he said of the 16th ranking.  “When you look at this team last year, at times they may have been a fringe top 25 team because they were in a lot of games, but they’ve come back much improved.”

Syracuse added three recruits in the 2018 class, as well as East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes, who sat out for the entire 2017-18 season.  Matt Wieselthier, sports director at Citrus TV, says this added depth, as well as minimal loss from last year’s team, is one reason why the Orange are ranked to start the season.

“You can’t look at this team and say it’s too high or too low because they were a Sweet 16 team last year,” Wieselthier said.  “Theoretically, coming into this year they should be a top 16 team, since they only lost one player who was coming off the bench and ended up gaining talent.”

The Atlantic Coast Conference had seven teams ranked in the poll, the most of any conference.  A tough conference schedule is nothing new for Syracuse, and Spector believes the Orange will be able to hang with their in-conference foes.

“I wouldn’t overreact to the rankings, as we all know Syracuse plays in the best conference for basketball in the entire country,” he said.  “Seven teams in the top 25 is unsurprising, and yes, the competition is there, but if Syracuse is really a top 16 team,  they should be able to compete with anyone in the country.”

Wieselthier agreed with that sentiment, as he thinks Syracuse’s loaded schedule will prove to be an asset in March.

“One of Syracuse’s concerns in recent years has been just making the tournament,” he said.  “When you have seven ranked teams in the ACC, you’re looking at a strength of schedule that’s much more difficult, and you have to remember they might play Oregon, another team that’s ranked right now, in the 2K Classic.  So when you look at the level of competition, forget about wins and losses, it just looks better for the
tournament committee.”

With junior guard Tyus Battle and sophomore forward Oshae Brissett both returning to school after declaring for the NBA Draft this summer, Syracuse is expected to be a contender for a national championship.  These expectations are new for the majority of the roster, and will be something the team has to deal with throughout the early part of the year.

“When I talked to the team at media day, they seemed to almost be frustrated that they’re no longer the underdogs,” Wieselthier added.  “It feels almost like they’re confused, like they don’t know how to feel about it.  It’s kind of a question of who is this team and are they going to be comfortable with the ranking?”

While some may be skeptical of Syracuse’s ability to live up to the hype, Brandon Ross, a writer for Nunes Magician, SB Nation’s Syracuse blog, said historically speaking, the Orange prove doubters wrong.

“They love to exceed expectations,” Ross said.  “Last year, they made the Sweet 16 when no one expected them to make the tournament. And, you can’t ever underestimate a Syracuse team, they’re well-known for over-performing expectations.”

The Orange will play two exhibition games at the end of October before hosting Eastern Washington to begin the season on November 6.